Learning to skate.

I miss the days when it was just Benjamin and I.

It had just gotten so easy. Just the two of us, with no one to answer to… I could spoil him to the ends of the Earth (without even realizing I was). He could get all of my attention, all of the time. Now, we are a family of five and everything is exposed. My weaknesses as a parent. Benjamin’s behavior issues. All of it is on the table for Seth, Lily and Cohen to see. And somehow, we have to merge our world with theirs.

But we are. Day by day. Week by week. Talk after talk between two concerned parents, madly in love with each other and unable to put a magic Band-Aid on anything. The adjusting continues and I wonder, both of us wonder, how long it will take before everyone just kind of settles in. It has been over one year, but in some ways everything still feels so new.

We are struggling with Benjamin.

It seems, without a doubt that he has ADD or ADHD. The symptoms are all there and becoming more pronounced as he gets older. The non stop nail-biting. The constant fidgeting. His insecurities and feelings of inadequacies in school. His extreme inability to just “listen the first time.” His brilliance. His artistic streak. His awesome energy and intensity.

What’s funny is that in spite of the challenges, I wouldn’t change him for the world. I love all of those things about him. I love that he is so exceptionally unique. but I hate that he suffers because of it. I hate that there is no place for him to comfortably fit within the traditional school system. His “high-energy”, as they call it, has tested every one of his teachers. Even seasoned teachers throw their hands up in the air and say literally, “I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried everything.”

But they all add, “He means well. He is a sweet boy but he just can’t listen.”

At home, Benjamin is testing Seth, too. Every day he challenges him. Seth, who has the patience of a Saint, is starting to feel frustrated. And I can’t blame him. If the tables were turned, I can’t imagine how I would react. We worry about Benjamin and also about Lily and Cohen. We fear his attention seeking behavior is marginalizing Lily and Cohen.

The house feels sometimes like a psychological mine field to me. I am always concerned that by giving my attention to one child, I will hurt the other. It’s a constant struggle for me. I am just so torn between wanting to protect my baby over all else and then realizing how magnificent it is to have Seth, Lily and Cohen here to help Benjamin and I evolve into a less self-centered pair, lost in our own world of Two. I have to let go and let him be hurt, let him realize that no, “you can’t say that or treat people that way, or they push back.”

Now is the hard part, Seth says. The Honeymoon is over and we have to work, and it won’t be easy. We find the really good days propel us forward and the really bad days bring us down. But we get up and do it all over again, driven by the fact that there is no other place we would rather be. This is it, for both of us, and while it’s not blissful and perfect every day, it is always remarkable and lovely that we are all here together.

This is our family. We are a family. And the universe just stuck us all in a blender. Eventually we’ll mix right up.

This week, it’s off to Children’s Hospital and a behavioral specialist for Benjamin. I can’t seem to find any decent support groups online for parents of children with ADD and ADHD. If you know of any, please leave them in the comments.

 

34 Responses to Learning to skate.
  1. Jen Reply

    OMG, he sounds SO similar to my son who is now 11. I get what you mean about it being easier with just the two of you. I’m seeing a guy who has two kids of his own and even though we don’t live together it’s been a struggle integrating. We even broke up last year for three months because of it. Now we’re back together but neither of us are talking about moving in together. I’ve taken my to psychologists who reckon he doesn’t have ADD or ADHD but there’s definitely something undiagnosed. He had a behaviour plan drawn up by our education department and mostly seems to have settled into school now although it’s not always smooth sailing.

    I continue to do what I can. He’s socialising a lot more at school and out of school now with sports and visits with friends. I can see the adult he will become – intelligent, passionate, enthusiastic and lovable (more of what he already is). It’s not easy but so long as Seth and his kids have your back then you’ll get through it.

  2. Sheila Reply

    Look into ABA behavioral therapy. My son has autism and ADHD and has been receing ABA for almost 3 years and it has worked wonders. in California we have state funded regional centers that provide testing and fund therapy, there might be something similar in your state. Early intervention is key so I’m sure you will be able to square things away with your little guy soon. :)

  3. Sheila Reply

    As far as support groups, this one on FB for single moms with autistic kids is actually a fantastic resource – a lot of those kids have ADD/ADHD as well. http://www.facebook.com/singlemotherswhohavechildrenwithautism

  4. GreenInOC Reply

    Have you thought about seeking family therapy? You may think it’s impossible because of the love and affection you all have for each other, but there still may be some fear there and he just may need a safe place to say it and, given his age, a way to recognize conflicting feelings and communicate.

    You never know what how children (and adults for that matter!), perceive things. Sometimes they feel responsible for things that are impossible but they can’t/fear acknowledging them. There may be guilt, frustration, worry all jumbled up with love, laughter and good times all leading to some confusion.

    Also, just curious if you’ve considered alternative educational settings for him. Not all kids do well in a traditional environment. From my well perched computer (meaning take what I say with a grain of salt and the less than 2 cents that it’s worth!), he may thrive in a child-led learning environment or even something with LOTS of structure but very small class sizes.

  5. Stacia Reply

    i have no great words of wisdom on what to do with the little man, but just don’t forget how very important it is for you and Seth to stay united. I know blended family stresses can take a toll on a relationship. You got this.

  6. Susan Reply

    I have a friend, whose son has ADHD and ADD and she is local and I am sure she would be willing to talk with you. Message me and I can get you hooked up.

  7. Kathryn Reply

    I don’t have a child with ADD but I lived with and helped raise my much younger brother who has severe ADD. We struggled with it for years until we found a fabulous psychologist/behavior specialist that not only helped to treat his illness but worked with him for years to help him understand and develop the behaviors to live with it and succeed. He’s now 25 and just graduated from college with a double major in math and economics. It was hell some days but we finally found a place that played to his strengths (math) and we made it. All of this to tell you that it DOES get better and all the hell is worth it in the end. Stay strong and remember you (and Seth of course) know what’s best for Benjamin and if you have to take him to a thousand doctors to find the one that helps you do it. Good luck!

  8. cmhdave73 Reply

    Go see a psychologist specializing in family issues. Coming from someone who has successfully blended a family, the help we received up front was invaluable. We’ve been married now for 5 years and the kids get along just fine. Everything you are going through has already been gone through with other single parents that have blended their families.

  9. Ryan Reply

    I don’t have any good online support groups, but my son was diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, and Sensory processing Disorder. It is stressful. My patience gets tested. It puts strain on my relationships, with family and friends. I am not coddling him, despite their claims that I am! I hope you find the answers you are looking for. I wouldn’t change one thing about my son. He is the most brilliant, amazing, intelligent, resilient little boy I know. He teaches me so much!

  10. Deanna Reply

    It’s a trip, huh? I realize now just how naive I was when I was a single mom. I had no earthly clue how challenging blending a fam would be. Thank God my partner is willing to deal squarely with enormous behavioral challenges that emerged from his son when they went from a family of two, to a family of five. I adore my new life and my new partner with a passion. We have agreed the children will always be a work in progress, and love will maybe come some day, but tolerance and respect are good starting goals. It has been almost a year for us, andI feel like we are just barely starting this journey.. Love this post.. thank you for sharing this.

    • alaina Reply

      Right there with you. This is just the beginning. I am carried through by the rewards and the knowledge that this will all be worth it when we adjust and grow together. If life were easy it would be boring!

      • Natalie Reply

        Read about Sensory Processing Disorder. my Son has it. He is doing awesome now.
        sinetwork.org/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html

  11. Annie Reply

    Chin up, Honey. You are not alone.

    • alaina Reply

      Thank you, Annie. ; )

  12. Deanna Reply

    ….also, I do often miss the days of just the three of us. I have my two half the time and we have his son full time. It’s tough because to get much needed together time, we have to leave him out.. Blended families are not for the weak.. :) I never imagined I would love someone so much to be willing to navigate this murky and challenging terrain.

  13. Steph Bonjour Reply

    My son is very similar and it is just him and I, except now he is in preschool and the issues are coming out. He has an anxiety disorder with sensory processing issues. It is difficult because you know your kid is amazing but other’s only see the “behaviors”. I am a Early Childhood Special Education teacher so I would push for an evaluation by your school. They can perform tests, checklists, etc. and have you complete parent questionnaires and if he qualifies they can help with accommodations in the classroom such as “extra” breaks to walk the hall to re-focus, fidgets for group work, etc. If they see behavior issues the school psych can do observations in the classroom and at home to help with interventions and an Occupational Therapist can observe him and see if he is “seeking” big body movement or has some other processing disorders. I know that this is difficult, difficult to hear and acknowledge that “the apple of your eye” may have issues but the earlier they are recognized and interventions begun the happier he (and your family) will be in total. Good luck!! Keep your chin’s up and trust your gut!

    • alaina Reply

      Steph,

      The school has assessed him and they have been wonderful in creating a plan just for him. We are lucky to be in an excellent school district. He does have control over movement, but fidgeting is a big issue. I think anxiety could be it… we’ll know more after today.

  14. Joanna Reply

    Beautifully written and very relate able to us not so single (anymore) moms! Thank you

  15. Verysinglemom Reply

    This is why I keep reading…posts such as this. Those that you are vulnerable to your readers and let us in on your struggles. All the best to you all. I agree, family therapy Along with individual help for Benjamin might be useful. It is soo stressful Blending families on top of other challenges. Doesn’t mean anything wrong with your and Seth’s marriage to engage in therapy: might just be a safe sounding board for you and Seth.

    • alaina Reply

      Yes, we are very open to therapy and know the powers of it as it helped both of us when recovering from our first marriages. At this point, we are going to tackle these new challenges head on first and see how far we can get with what we’ve learned through past therapy. But, definitely, on the table as an option for all of us. Thank you so much for reading.

  16. Jen Reply

    This book is wonderful:
    http://www.amazon.ca/My-Brain-Needs-Glasses-Hyperactivity/dp/2764016603

    Explains it all so clearly and fairly for the child, but also very reassuring for the parent.

    • alaina Reply

      Thank you. We will check it out.

  17. Adriel Reply

    Hi! I love this blog, and having recently discovered it, am also soaking up past posts on Ms. Single Mama :) I’m a single mom of a boy too – he’s 11 now. A few years ago, he was struggling in school, with some similar stuff that Benjamin seems to be dealing with. My son fidgeted, had a difficult time staying focused, would have to be told the same thing over and over again. I was getting pretty overwhelmed, I wanted to see him happy and to succeed in school, feel comfortable, etc… basically all the stuff you said in this post :) I can feel how much you love him! I didn’t have him evaluated for ADD, not that that might not be a possibility, but I did have him do some training at a place called Learning Rx. And I SWEAR to you I’m not invested in any way in this business, it’s just something that I did that worked wonders for him. Anyway, I looked online and saw that there is a location in Ohio, I have NO clue how close you are to Akron or if this is even something you’d be open to trying but I always like to share this option with parents because it was such a surprising and wonderful experience. http://www.learningrx.com/akron-bath/

    It was an expense, and as you know from being a single mom, money doesn’t grow on trees! But it was money well spent. It helped with my son’s behaviors, with his school work, his attention, and with his self esteem. What I loved about it was that they respected and acknowledged his intelligence and their work with him only brought that to the surface more, and gave him some of the self control and focus that he needed to see for himself how truly bright he is. It was awesome. Anyhoo – best of luck to your family with your journey with Benjamin and I have no doubt he’s going to do well because he’s clearly got two parents who love him a whole lot!!

  18. Trish Reply

    I am a pediatric OT. I ditto Steph Bonjour’s comments. Sounds like he’s seeking (or avoiding!) sensory experiences. Ask for an OT referral for Sensory Processing Disorder through the school. Good luck!

  19. Kelsey Reply

    As a therapist, I see parents bring children to the therapy alter in situations like this all the time. The child has undergone multiple upheavals in his family, and the parent brings him in for meds because “he just won’t listen”, or “he can’t pay attention”, or they are getting harassed by the teacher (I say he b/c it’s almost always boys)..It’s the same story time and time again. The child’s behavior is usually a symptom of a bigger family issue. Your son has been through so much in his short life. You even noted that just when you and he had your routine down, you quickly rush into a marriage and blended family. A pill won’t change the stressors. Will meds calm him down, make him more tolerable to teachers? Sure. The medications work on anyone. They will also kill his appetite, mess with his sleep and give his brain high grade stimulants while it is still growing and developing. There is no pill that will address everything your son has been through or the true impact it has had on him. Look at the long term studies (not financed by the drug manufacturers) and see that they really aren’t worth the negatives. You have to be truly present in his life for him and finding a good, certified play therapist would be a better spend of your time and money. I know it’s tempting to put your entire focus into this new relationship and new family you are building. I feel your first priority should be your son. Who else’s first priority will he be, if not yours?
    Also, when children are attention seeking, IT’S BECAUSE THEY NEED ATTENTION

  20. Amy Reply

    I have worked with people with all sorts of diagnoses for the past 20 years. Benjamin (and you all) will be greatly advantaged having the help of therapy for him. Understanding what is going on with him so key.

  21. Kim Reply

    Raising children is our greatest accomplishment, our biggest challenge, the hugest of rewards!

    But, in the midst of it all, is the challenge. We’ve struggled with behavior irregularities from my son for years. For a very long time I was resistant to medication, though I did seek the advice of a holistic doctor who worked with us on balancing body chemistry, which led to some improvement. Middle School continues to be a special challenge, in part because of the fast pace, and he’s been on a low dose medication for ADHD for a year. Very low does, wears off by 3. My pediatrician friend explained to me in words I could understand that this helps his brain slow down enough to process and make decisions. Children’s brain’s are constantly growing and changing, and we’re in the midst of a spectacular reorganization at middle school age. We’ve also got a great support group of counselor, mentors, family who spend time with each of the three children, so that no one feels they are getting left out. And it takes some parental discipline…remembering every night to not just ask about homework, but to go online to check, to remind that the work goes back INTO the backpack, to ask a fourth time that the instrument get practice!

    It doesn’t end, but if you are able to find doctors who will work with you, help you understand what will help your child, and your family sticks together, it will be better!

  22. Mary Beth Reply

    The challenges and stress of blending families is one of the most difficult kinds of family situations. We have five between us – 17 through 6 and some days I feel overwhelmed and beyond my very wits end. Trust in your love and be diligent in your parenting. You won’t always agree or be at your best and it is natural to get defensive (you know what I mean). You also have so many more people that love you and Benjamin now, and sometimes focusing on that makes it easier to get through the rough spells.
    Good luck!

  23. Little Miss Mummy Reply

    Alaina – you’re honesty is inspiring. It is really hard as a Mum, especially a single Mum trying to blend a new family, to be so honest as it seems that everyone has an opinion on what you’re doing/not doing that isn’t right. Sometimes I wish people would just offer support and encouragement, which is what we need far more than criticism or judgement.
    It sounds like what Benjamin is going through is a very normal response to such big changes in his life – but you’re a step ahead if you’ve already recognised that and are willing to work hard on it. It is such a juggle – one-on-one time with Benjamin, one-on-one time with Seth to build your relationship, time with your step kids to help them settle, time as a family. Add to that work, running a house, a blog and (I’m presuming!) having a social life and down time for yourself – no wonder you feel overwhelmed and preassured.
    But….you have a lot of self awareness and you know when to ask for help – which is so important. I agree with others on Counselling, whether its for Benjamin, for you or for you & Seth, I think you’ll benefit from getting advice from someone who is independent and subjective.
    Your post came just as I was struggling with similar issues – my boyfriend has just moved in with my kids and I, and my eldest daughter (age 7.5) is struggling with change as well, even though she really likes him. She says “But Mummy, I got used to it just being you and us”. I saw a family counselor yesterday who said that one-on-one time with each of my kids EVERY week is so important to help the kids adjust to this change, so that they know they don’t always have to compete for your attention.
    Stay calm – it’s a rollercoaster journey, but worth it. Focus on the positives that your lovely new family will have, and give Benjamin the time and understanding that he needs to get used these changes. I have every confidence that you’ll handle this with as much grace as you have all the other challenges that life has thrown at you.
    Take care,
    Little Miss Mummy x

  24. Chit Reply

    Hi Alaina,

    I have been following you for many years and commenting. I am a child development specialist. Has anyone talked to you about SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder)? Back in your single mama days that was what some of his “behavior” sounded like from your descriptions. ADD and ADHD are often misdiagnosed and can look like SPD. See an OT (occupational therapist) for an eval if you have not yet. The SPD Foundation has a great screening checklist on their website.

    I strongly disagree with giving him ABA or behavior therapy. He does not have autism. You need to get to the source of what is causing the “behavior”. All behaviors are forms of communication. Benjamin may have auditory processing, sensory and other issues that causing him to have difficulty staying regulated ie in a calm state ready to engage and relate. When he fidgets he is trying to regulate his body.

    I will message you some resources.

  25. Stefanie Creason Reply

    In the last year, I (we) have learned the very same things about our son, and our blended family. Here is a site that is helpful, it provides special parenting techniques and such, because let’s face it, our children are “special.” They were created with excessive nervous energy with no place to exhaust it. They are creative, they are demanding, they are much wiser than their years. They easily get frustrated because of their inability to just focus on one simple thing. You are doing all the right things, to try to help him. JP was diagnosed ADHD at age 6. After receiving treatment, guidance and glasses, he was a different kid overnight. NOW, don’t take that wrong, he was still him, he just struggles alot less now than he did before both academically and behaviorally. I wish you well :)

    http://www.attentiondeficit-add-adhd.com/adhd-connors-test.htm

  26. inchrysalis Reply

    Hi Alaina,

    I have been following your blog for a couple years now, but never posted until now. I am having similar issues with my 7-year old daughter. I have been in a serious relationship for 3 1/2 years and my daughter has known him for three years, but because of things beyond my control in her Dad’s household she is now starting to act out in similar ways that you posted about Benjamin. When it is just her and I, things are copacetic, but she is pushing limits with my boyfriend, at school with friends and other kids. I am currently trying to find a therapist I can put my trust in to help work with her. She loves my boyfriend, but seems to feel now that she needs to “compete” when it is the three of us together and it is frustrating to him to, even though he’s trying.

    Well, keep us updated.I wish I had some great advice. I am just changing how I react with more patience and more talking things through with her. Eventually it has to stick, I hope.

    • alaina Reply

      Very relieved we aren’t the only ones, but sad you are also struggling. We have made great strides since writing this post with Benjamin. I will indeed keep you “posted”. Thank you so much for reading.

  27. linda Reply

    Hi. Two years ago my son’s teachers also threw their hands up and told me to get my son tested, diagnosed, and medicated, because it was my job to get him to behave. Finally he was diagnosed with ADHD, but i decided not to medicate. Last year his teacher had a very different approach, saying “ok, so this is how he is, what can i do as his teacher to help him succeed”, and my son had a wonderful year. Now he is almost 10 years old, he is more mature, still ADHD, still unmedicated. This year his teachers told me he is respectful, gets along with his peers, and is kind to others. When they told me “he is a happy boy”, i cried – what more could a mom want to hear? So hang in there. There are still many challenging moments, and not everyone around me understands and accepts my son as i do, but everyone acknowledges what progress he’s made. Maturity, love, and acceptance go a long way. Good luck!

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